Love and Politics – Why Politicians Cheat


Congressman Anthony Weiner (D) New York

By Marquis Codjia

Humans need love

Human beings are naturally prone to seek love, nurturing and self-determination. They are born into love, are surrounded with loving entourages, and continually seek throughout their lives that dose of comfort and serenity that stems from the realization that they’re loved, or more simply, admired. Humans need love, and love, as a social epiphenomenon, needs them. Love is, in this case, an epiphenomenon because it is a byproduct of other forms of human interaction, conciliation and reconciliation.

In seeking that utopian comfort of being permanently idolized, people are poised to act on their impulses and react instinctively to protect or maintain that status quo. At all stages of the human adventure, that need for particular attention is preeminent. Think about babies seeking frenetically their parents’ attention or adults engaging in extraordinary expressions of feeling to show their jealousy.

Given that the need to be loved is natural, we are ready to accept the assertion that love can – and must be – eternal. Religions and other constructs of faith, beliefs and dogma fulfill that ethos in the sense that they permit us to start believing in an everlasting love, one that will smoothly transition from this terrestrial episode into an after-life occurrence.

Love and politics

Politicians, like most of us, have that intense striving for love and admiration. As any other human, they’re willing to resort to arguably reprehensible means to get that admiration. The need for love, that is, the need for approval is peculiarly crucial for politicians because it conditions their electoral existence and survival. They must win votes, that is, they must be lovable enough for citizens to love them and grant them their votes.

Interestingly, those who have a heightened need of admiration are bold enough to utilize any means necessary to reach their goals. They need to manipulate. Politicians are in that category. Social scientists have long argued that politicians need to seduce the electorate continuously to safeguard their political capital. Politics is the science of managing the general good, and in handling that societal responsibility, people in power use various tools to provide law and order, which are pragmatic, down-to-earth, day-to-day necessities, but also idealism, and dreaming, which belong to the realm of imagination but are nonetheless critical.

Politicians mainly use their electoral clout as a catalyst or an advantage in seeking ways to satisfy their basic carnal drives. Sexual harassment procedures are not alien to that category of ways and means; other, less coercive initiatives, may include job promises and business deal preferences.

History shows us that there exists an eerily long panoply of infidelity cases involving politicians, and to a larger extent, people in power – the elite. Romans and Greeks were known to have very ‘flexible’ matrimonial laws, and historical accounts of European or African social evolutions indicate a propensity for aristocracy to engage in infidelity. Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, is believed to have had an extramarital relationship with a slave at Monticello named Sally Hemings.

Careless cheating

Cheating politicians are not a scarce commodity; news commentators and journalists argue that the list of people in power and celebrities guilty of infidelity is longer than currently unveiled. In other words, the cheaters that have gotten caught are just an infinitesimal minority of the entire universe of elected officials.

Communication specialists and celebrity agents are always flabbergasted at the lack of care that some elected officials showcase in handling their affairs and dealing afterwards with infidelity matters, because that behavior is so diametrically opposed to the high sophistication these authorities maintain in managing their public image. Put simply, some politicians are willing to spend millions of dollars on PR campaigns just to get caught later like a teenager in their faithless proceedings.

Nowadays, that question of adulterous carelessness remains open while puzzling political science students. Many social science specialists have contributed their expertise to a body of knowledge that may begin to explain the causal relationship of politician spousal disloyalty. One reason put forward is the intrinsic human instinct: lust. Just as any other human, a politician is driven to carnal desires outside his conjugal realm simply because he or she cannot hold these desires at bay. Simple as that.

Another factor explaining why an elected official is willing to risk all their career in return for a few minutes of romantic episode lies in the quintessential trait of all people in power: the sense of omnipotence. In other words, that feeling of invulnerability, irrespective of the sin committed. This can be seen in recent episodes with former US president’s escapades in the White House Oval Office with intern Monica Lewinsky or former New York State governor Elliot Spitzer’s interest in prostitute services even though he had been best known for his stern prosecution of those prostitution rings when he served as the state’s Attorney General. Even strange was the revelation later that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who was pushing for Clinton’s impeachment because of infidelity was also living an adulterous life at the same time!

Some specialists have also suggested that politicians are also prone to infidelity because either they are unhappy in their current relationship or they encounter a high number of solicitations by virtue of their office and the fact that some of these demands can be at times highly pressing. Even though that explanation seeks to discharge politicians from their guilt, it does not provide an explanation as to why they’re willing to cede to something that risks destroying in a few minutes or hours an entire career built over decades.

In a modern world dominated by ubiquitous journalism and populated by a diverse cohort of players – bloggers, paparazzi, journalists, “cell-phone camera enabled citizens” – it remains puzzling to try to understand such degree of careless infidelity from these officials.

Cultural differences around the world

Contrary to the United States, England, and a few other countries, infidelity matters involving politicians are not “career-killers”. The underlying factor of such a dichotomy is based on the social premise that different cultures view adultery as a private matter which does not necessarily fall into the political realm. Another cultural element also is the fact that some societies ingrained in polygamist or polyandrous traditions view infidelity as a lesser sin. An illustration of this trend is the saga surrounding current Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi’s private affairs and the indifference voters continuously show thereto in polls.

Do women also cheat?

Political commentators and historians agree that public infidelity of an elected official is mostly undertaken by men. Yet, they posit that women also have their fair share of adulterous affairs but are less likely to be exposed because of their minority in the political universe, the ambient social circumspection regarding female infidelity and the general discretion women are accustomed to in dealing with non-conjugal paramours. The recent case of former Ireland’s prime minister’s wife – Iris Robinson – involvement in an out-of-wedlock romance may start to debunk that myth.

Marquis Codjia is an MBA-degreed finance professional with a solid, varied risk management experience in the banking and capital markets arena. His areas of interest are geopolitics, the economy and social issues.

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